Short Selling

“I don’t know much.  I’m just a housewife. I’m a mother. I haven’t done anything but cook, clean and take care of you and yours.

I have zero talent.”

And went conversation.

The never ending conversation remained the same. Endless, meaningless talks with no one to argue against her.

Her children had settled down. Her husband had taken up a part-time job as a consultant to beat the monotony of watching endless news debates, empty walls and silence.

She went on long walks in the evening. She opened her mouth to talk to her husband of oh-so-many years but she had lost track and touch with what made them special.

Her kids had moved on to busy lives of their own. A call, a message, a whatsapp forward – their endeth the conversation.

Young couples in the apartment they stayed in looked at the couple with envy and a sigh. Ah, companionship. If we get to that stage of life with a beatific smile. We have arrived they thought.

She was that sprightly 50+ lady, vivacious, gracious and zestful.

If only they knew.

The loneliness.

The lack of self worth.

She opened a tattered cardboard box and pulled out earrings she had made from shards of glass. They glimmered in the sunlight throwing multi-colored diamonds on the wall.

She pulled out the little trinket she had made for her daughter and smiled. Her daughter had worn it for a week before discarding it for another trinket she had created.

The doorbell rang.

“Hello Aunty, we are having a yard sale. Do you have anything you would want to give us? ” smiled the 18-year old girl and her friend from next door.

She turned around and saw the box with all the earrings, trinkets, bracelets and other accouterments she had made over the years. She invited them inside and sat down looking at the box. Abruptly she gathered the scattered items and stuffed them into the box, silently handing it over to the girl. The earring fell out which the girl picked up in wonder.

“Oh my God Aunty. Did you make this? Could you tell us how? Do you have more of them?”

She smiled and nodded her head.

“No beta, these are very old. I made it for my daughters but it doesn’t hold any value now.”

The girl stared at her friend, thanked her and left.

She sighed.

Another part of her had been cut away.

She began to tidy up and begin preparations for the evening dinner. Not that they ate much now. A simple repast of roti and sabzi with some salad was all that was needed. Yet, she found comfort in the ritual of kneading the dough and rolling out the rotis to put them on the tava and watch each roti fluff. How her daughters would gaze in wonder as they saw the roti fluff over the stove. “How do you do it Maa? You must teach us too.”

The doorbell rang. She was surprised. Her husband never came back this early.

She washed her hands and scampered towards the door wiping her hands on the kitchen towel.

She switched on the  lights and peered out of the window. It was the girl next door with someone.

She opened the door and looked inquiringly, “Yes beta?”

“Aunty, this is my friend. He has a boutique and an online store that specialises in handicrafts. I showed him all the trinkets you gave us for the yard sale. He wanted to speak with you.”

“Hello Aunty. I’m delighted to meet you. When I saw the trinkets I knew I had to meet the lady who made it. You wouldn’t believe me but there is a huge demand for products like this, especially among the younger generation.”

She looked on in disbelief before saying, “But beta…..”

“I understand Aunty. You must be busy with all the housework. We can look at small orders at first, and then when you are comfortable you can start sending us more volumes. I would also like you to meet two NGOs we support to teach this craft to the women who come there. If all this sounds too much, we can take it a step at a time. But please, please say yes.”

“I have no talent you know,” she began but the girl and her friend took her hand in their own, and smiled.

What a woman needs

I hate commemorating any kind of day.

Mother’s Day

Valentine’s Day

Father’s Day

World Peace Day

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

I firmly believe each day should be a celebration of what life is about…love, your parents who got you here (even if it were accidental), peace, and what-have-you-out- there, which all those greeting card companies popularised long before e-cards existed.

That said, this post isn’t meant to commemorate my mum or women.

I see my mum do the same thing she has done every single day as long as i remember remembering.

…….

wake up before every body else does

get breakfast ready

clean up the house

wash the dishes (if the maid doesn’t come or make coffee and breakfast for the maid if she does)

pack breakfast or lunch as the case may be

get lunch ready

clean the house or the kitchen or any other place where we messed it up

talk to the neighbours and make them feel good

talk to the security or the dhobhi or the old lady who lives alone coz her family stays overseas or anybody else who needs a patient hearing

get tea ready

and take care of the pet/pets (when we had a dog and when we have fishes) all day long

and tend to the garden (weeds, vegetables, flowers, fruits, grass, butterflies, and i lose count ….)

get dinner ready

…….

so basically be the selfless woman, that only a mum can be, while the rest of us go on with our meaningless(ful) existence, chasing dreams, chasing money, chasing popularity, chasing and chasing.

……

now how can one day suffice to commemorate, celebrate, raise a toast and everything good that there is to a lady who has no self, so self less, so much of an individual and not, whose life revolves around her family or the people/things she loves

Photo0473

……

that would be such a meaningless gesture, n’e st pas?!

……

so every day as i grow older i try to be a bit more conscious …to be there for her…. to just listen….to hold and hug….to caress….to take care of my mess…. to just be -for her and for myself….to just let her be..to encourage her to discover all the glories of the world, which perhaps she was too busy to not discover while she was caring for her selfish brood….to have her love herself a lil’ more than she loves the lot of us (losing battle so far!!!)…..to embrace technology….to not shy away from exploring her strengths and her beauty…..

…….

and as i see her wrap up another busy day i think, what a woman needs is

a lover, at least once in a lifetime, whose memories are tucked away in her secret corner to rekindle and remind her that is a woman

a sister, a brother, a friend……who protect her from all that is harsh and stand up for her

a father……who believes in her

a hobby ….that takes her out of whatever mold she has set herself in to remind her she is more than a giver

a mother……who is there (and nay, i don’t need to say anything else)

………..

and if you are lucky you are probably a son or a daughter to that glorious mother and remember to cherish her all your life for what she has given up and given you

………..

God bless, and have a great week ahead!

Blazing a Different Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Robert Frost and his Road not Taken, standard English textbook fare for most of us who studied in the 80’s.

I gush and I gape whenever I meet someone who I feel/believe has taken the road less traveled by. It has been an aspiration for therein lies the secret to living a fulfilling life, a contended one.

And today, I met 2 incredible human beings who are living my dream, of blazing a new trail ……

I stumbled upon both by chance. The first through a friend who liked the FB page and the second coz of the first.

The Puzzle

When I browsed the FB page, I did a double take. How can some one be so foolhardy I thought? This is escapism taken to its extreme ran another train of thought. Perhaps this person has really been hurt or is running away from deep emotional trauma cried a voice from the inner recesses of my head. What motivates this man to travel the length and breadth of the country on his cycle stopping at remote communities and then staging a theatre act (street theatre style)? Doesn’t he read the papers? How can he survive without a toilet, without money, without his family, without comfort, without all the bare necessities like a roof over the head, 3 meals and more, friends to hang around with and so on and so forth?

The more I followed his travel and read his updates, the more intrigued I was….to analyse, arrive at a conclusion, understand, fathom what made this man undertake the journey he did.

The Solution

So when I found out he was dropping by where I stay I literally hounded him to meet up. The first was a washout thanks to an unexpected attack of the migraine but I got second time lucky. And how!! Not only did I get to meet The Cycle Natak, I met another intrepid explorer Andre Unger as well….

And so came 2 inspirational hours of freewheeling conversation with Andre and The Cycle Natak, who shared his journey with candor  humor, humility and a seeming sense of the unself-conscious self!!

Of course, I have to take you along this journey my dear reader and share the fascinating  nuggets I stashed away as I walked back to reality……..

The Cycle Natak

Over pepper sausages, a ham sandwich and chai, cold coffee and mosambi juice The Cycle Natak unraveled his secret to a happy life and his unquenchable urge to explore and travel. I will not dwell upon what motivated my friend ( I consider him that for he let me share his journey, if only for a while) since you would perhaps want to meet him and hear his story in his own voice. 

His 2 and a half year journey has obviously been adventurous, but what entices as this 24-year old speaks is his maturity and wisdom, something you would expect from a 70+ wizened sire who has seen, experienced, cherished and lived.

“It is not the destination but the journey that makes my travel interesting and gets me going again and again.”

“People are good. It is when you project goodness that you get goodness in return.”

“It is the truckwallas who have time and again let me hitch a ride with them that makes me feel good about getting back on the road again. They are honest, and would share their last piece of bread never expecting anything in return…..It is the laborer who takes me to his home and heart after just speaking with me for a few moments, happily sharing his frugal meal, which is not even enough for one….And then, I have had rich folks give me a 500 rupee note and ask me to take up lodging at a motel … And then, there is a villager who takes me to his home and gives his bed..”

“You learn to take the moment and live in the emotion of that moment but after it’s over, it’s over. You move on to a new one, a new moment, a new emotion.”

“At times, you have to just let go and let the dam burst because the more you carry with you the more dangerous the outburst. I remember sitting on the road in a particular phase of my journey just crying, venting out my frustration but then I had to shake myself off and move on..hoping there was something better ahead” (This when I asked him if he felt frustration and negativity at seeing how society was, how little progress we have made in spite of the India Shining chimes that play on)

“The condition of women is pathetic but it is far better that what it was so you can imagine how miserable it must have been…….women still think they do not have a right to conjugal happiness, that they owe it to their husbands to sleep because that is their duty.”

“Being a Muslim is not as issue when you get people to see you are a traveler, a human and not a caste.” (When I asked him if he found it difficult to get access to shelter or food because he was a Muslim)

“You have to feel empowered to be empowered. I was in some tricky situations but the fact that I spoke LOUD, spoke with Empowerment got me out.”

“You are answerable only to your (inner) self not anyone’s sense of what you are or who you should be….”

Andre Unger

Thanks to The Cycle Natak I also connected with Andre, an intrepid explorer, a risk taker by conventional measures. Giving up a well paid job Andre just took off on his bike traveling from Kanyakumari to Ladakh.

He hasn’t gone back to corporate sludgery by choice and instead opted to become an entrepreneur to “take off when I want to and not have to work 12 months to earn that week of well-deserved break.”

“We set off on a journey wanting to discover ourselves but what we don’t realise is we are who we are, no different from what we were..just more conscious of the self.”

“We are conditioned to eat 3 meals a day when we should actually eat when we want and not live by convention.”

“Being content with what we have and leaving a little for the rest will take you a long way.”

“Do what you want to do before you say it’s too late.”

“You don’t need to have an answer or an explanation or a reason for everything that you do, sometimes it is the doing that matters.”

………

Wow, I could go on but I won’t. I hope it has tweaked some part of you that wants to do something but is waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right sign to pursue your dreams..to pursue that elusive Will-o-the-wisp….

And even as I write this, I realize blazing a trail doesn’t have to be something dramatic or unconventional it could just be that one small step you have dreaded to take for an unknown fear, an unspoken taunt, or perhaps an unconscious inner barrier…

Stop….

For now is that time, and that time will never return.

And to all those who have taken that small step every day in a small way….Cheers and More Power To you…..

To Sit or Lie

PART I TO LIE

Ok, so a while back a close relative commented: “Why do you share your private life out there? You facebook, you blog, you twitter, you comment, why you twit? Why do you randomly seek attention instead of just living your life?”

Ok, so admittedly I was perhaps going overboard. Not that I was tweeting or facebooking about every single loo stop or vocalising the existential angst that hits you living in a city that corners you with its filth, aggression, numbness, insensitivity and so on and so forth..

But yes, I was quick to share my thoughts, and happiness and the angst that came at times as I see a (sane) society I once knew crumble and erode.

No longer was I safe to take my nightly strolls alone or even accompanied by my mum or go out for a drink with a male friend or catch up on a movie in a dark cinema hall or visit the coffee bar down the road or go jogging in the neighbourhood park.

2 eyes weren’t sufficient any more.

I needed compound eyes.

I was equipped with a pepper spray, a taser gun (i wish), a marriage certificate, a mangalsutra, toe rings, a ferocious dog on a long leash, headphones to plug into my ear, coolers, a bottle of bisleri, a heavy handbag…..

And no items listed above were not for seeing/quenching thirst/pleasure/answering curious looks/questions/exercise.

Oh no, these survival articles were to maim and mutilate; to deaden the senses; to ward off any male that leered or pounced in the dark or otherwise.

And I did go off facebook and twitter and didn’t blog as much. After all I’m a girl, ok, a woman – the weaker sex….and I didn’t want nor crave unwanted attention.

5-year old girl raped; 23-year old brutalised, raped and succumbs; 25-year old raped; 3-year old molested; and I lost count after a spell. Age didn’t matter and neither did the fact that they were ‘accompanied by male companions’ or were ‘decently dressed.’

Skewed sex ratio across the country; increasing rich-poor divide; mass migration to urban centers and exposure to urban culture resulting in culture shocks; shift in male-female roles; lack of education; north vs south; societal change; changing moralities; regressive society; confused rural male/uneducated male/unemployed male; changing female mindset; independent women waving a red flag to CRM/UM……and so on and so forth went analysis after analysis on the sudden explosion in violent sexual crimes against women.

Part II – To Sit

Do I join the protests?

Do I vent my anger?

Do I sign up and share links?

Do I pray to God that when I get pregnant it shouldn’t be a daughter in my womb so I don’t unleash this insane world on her?

Or do I harness my strength as a woman and unleash the generations of collective wisdom and empower my child irrespective of whether it has a XX or a XY chromosome?

Teach them the to Do the Right Thing, Stand Tall, Believe, Be Good, BE A MAN (in Kipling’s words) and Be the Best of whatever they chose to be or do

Sensitise them to a new world order where gender equality can be real and not dictated by khap panchayats and politicians seeking to bank roll their votes playing (preying) on increased crimes.

That it is ok to iron blouses and buy sanitary pads if she is unable to without being hush hush

That it is ok to do the 3 am call when the cries wail out in the night and not roll over and play dead while nudging the better half out of her sleep to play care taker.

That it is ok to wash plates and keep the house clean and take the garbage out and shop for vegetables and plan the evening dinner so the lady can get some precious me-time too.

That it is ok to not get married, travel the world instead and opt for a high powered job, buy a house, and pursue dreams

That it is ok to bring home someone from the opposite sex or the same sex as a life partner if they mutually respect each other and Trust each other and can live a life in harmony

THAT IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERS….is what you made of life for yourself and for others in the short time you had
….that someone somewhere sheds a tear or sports a smile or passes a sigh when you are no more in fond remembrance of all the nice things you did
….and that is all there is to it

Too late to learn?!

That was the chorus playing in my head after a luncheon session.

Context – I was complimenting a colleague on her ability to handle people and stay unruffled despite frayed tempers while getting her point across. You could have been a professor the way you explain with such patience and wit, I said. No, you need to have a higher degree, she said. Why don’t you study now and get that degree, I said in a ra-ra mood. And before I could continue with the ra-ra-ing I heard another voice chip in and say, “No, it’s too late now.”

I turned around to see my colleague nod vigorously in agreement to the statement that had chimed in (from another female colleague).

Now, all of us were middle aged, middle class women with responsibilities; some with kids and some otherwise.

I turned around to address the larger group (women mostly) on whether they would pursue studies, given a chance. And the resounding chorus.

Yes, you guessed right.

“It’s too late now.”

Got me thinking, is it really?!

Without getting into gender stereotypes male colleagues pursue studies (most often an MBA) while their family and work life continue in joyous abandon. Got me thinking again, huh, why?

Yes, yes we know. Women take the brunt of marital/familial responsibilities and often have to play an award-worthy role of balancing priorities of husbands, kids, parents, in-laws, families at large, pets, friends, etc, etc… so their ambition & aspirations gets buried somewhere or lost in the long journey of playing life.

But there are women out there who actually manage to win that award and pursue studies as well. It may not be an extended MBA, it might be something simple as a foreign language course or a baking program or a web designing course or what-have-you. What gives?

US

We forget to ‘listen’ to what we want and need.

We forget that we are individuals (too).

We forget we are ‘gifted’ individuals and not mere responsibility-driven women.

We have bought the dumbing down, stereotyped cliches that society (for the most part) feeds us.

We have bought into ‘pre-defined’ roles assigned to us.

Good for everyone, but what about you? Where do you go once all those entities exist from your zone and you are alone?

Continuing Adult Education is important. For women, perhaps, more than men. Equip yourself with skills that will support you and keep you agile.

 

 

 

Neoexistential crisis…huh, what?!

This is truly a first for me.

How much is too much? and When is too much ENOUGH…

I didn’t mean to be cryptic but thought of letting these questions buzzing in my head out there in the open! Now what’s the deal, eh??

Here goes: I finally found a job that I like working in a place I like for a boss I respect with people I share a good rapport with, the usual stuff notwithstanding, and I get paid a decent sum, which maybe indecent by some standards but heh, whose complaining.

So what’s my gripe you ask..

The problem, and don’t laugh here, is I like my job so much that the world outside has ceased to exist. I wake up at 1 in the morning to check my mails. I respond to mails in such a jiffy that at times I do not read the mail through and end up sending addendums. I’m trying to be the go-to person. I alert my boss to whatever I think is important, even if it means calling him at 10 in the evening (yea yea it is night but in my work-filled haze it is but the start of a pleasant evening when I start working on documents and organising my mail).

I volunteer for work outside my defined profile and JD, and at times end up taking on more than I can chew..and boy, believe me, never knew leather was that tuff…ugh!!

Now I find myself unconsciously donning the role of admin assistant (nowhere near my JD), fairy godmother (you get my drift :-(( ), one-woman army (huh, since when) and doormat.

Yes, and before I forget there are a team of similar drones all over the organisation whom I found ludicrously endearing and leg-stomping hilarious but now…..

HELP….

 

Tiger’s Nest

After Mumbai, that helluva trip which wiped my fears clean looking forward to another one.

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The Mountain Kingdom with the handsome King and beautiful Queen. For me it is not so much their Royal Highness as much as this elusive will-o-the-wisp that has caught my whimsical fancy.

Though it is going to be a six-day trip I’m not sure if my luck will hold for me to see this enchanted shrine, something I have wanted to do for as long as I remember.

I have build my fantasies and fancies around this place and the more I read the more fascinated I’m. I don’t know if people out there remember this serial on DD an eon back. It was called Himalay Ki Godh Mein. It was based on stories around the mystical Himalayas and Mt Everest, and all about reincarnations and rebirths.

The flight in and out is supposed to be fraught with danger though tourists visit every year without any major catastrophes.

I’m still writing my last will and testament in case I do not get to visit this earthly abode.

Being of sane mind (sane as any sane person can get I suppose) I bequeath my blog to you, my dear friends, who have visited this blog and shared your thoughts just like I shared mine.

My Vaikunt goes to my mother, my darling heart.

My PF money, if ever I get it, goes to my other half for all the trouble I put him through in the short time frame I know him, poor him. Ye, I love you despite and in spite your dopiness.

My Archies and all my DVDs to my brother, my comrade-in-arms. I’m sure he will also appreciate Word-Viz, not there is much of it but whatever there is is yours my soulmate.

My chocoball to my sweet angel sis, Cass. Sure you will love him. But giving part ownership to mom as well since she needs someone to hold on to and cuddle when I’m no more.

To my grandpa, my anchor – all my books, irrespective of what genre they are. I’m sure you will share some of the books with the other half as well, in case he wants them.

Phew, finally I can say I leave no debts (I hope)….but if I do, well, c’est la vie. There is always another life to repay my debts.

And to my pommie unciezz I leave my strength and my memories and a heartful of love. Thank you cher ami for being my bedrock of strength and eternal hope. Mon dieu vous blessez!!

To all my friends…..thanks for sharing this short life with all its love, laughter, hope and glory. Bless You…

And in case I survive….

aha…..

Is it Me

or has the world changed while I was semi-comatose at the work station?

I find myself surrounded by teens who are rotund and getting rotunder with all the McDz and chicken snackers they are snacking on

I find more people older than I’m at the gym than finding young ‘uns

I find 50-year olds playing volleyball and planning their next trek to the Himalayas

while the 15-year old is glued to the blinking cursor

I find self control easily enough in the online dictionary along with all of its doppelganger but nothing within

I find I have a belly where once there was a waist

I find enough excuses to stay put at home on a weekend even attacking that huge pile of laundry instead of hopping out to meet friends

I find it easier to tolerate my folks and even appreciate their quirks and laugh as well

I find it easier to open my heart, close my ears and see the world with wonder

I find work is no longer a DIRTY 4-letter word

I find the thought of living life without the other half terrifying though I lived happily enough with my whole earlier

I find it easier to let go than hold on

I find the battle more exciting than the outcome

I find my mother is not my friend but the soul within, irritating in its righteousness but always there wherever you are

ahhhhh what is it…with me?!!

Be True to Thine Own Self

I walked into the workplace today wearing dungarees, a kurta, floaters and a jola. Smiles and smirks greeted me along with raised eyebrows and nudges.

While I’m not a self-conscious person naturally, I was forced to introspect. This attire that had  been a part of my writer’s garb for so long was suddenly alien in a corporate set up, even in a geeky corporate set up where it was OK to wear Croc loafers, tattered Levis and CK Ts.

When in Rome wear a Toga. That is my grandpa’s fav adage and still holds good as he prepares to turn 94 this coming year. You will never catch my grandpa go wrong with his sense of style and dressing. A formal occasion deserves nothing better than a crinkle-free trouser/shirt & pressed suit and if it is an Indian formal do than his best silk dhotis and kurtas are out along with the Rajasthani chadawas. His shoes have to sparkle till he can see his own reflection while his handkerchief stays unsoiled even after he has mopped his brow on a hot, sweaty day.

A walk to the neighborhood barber means wearing his old shirt and pants on since he still believes going to a barber is Ashudh. While I understand the hygienic connotation behind this belief what I’m yet to understand is the elaborate ritual that goes with a visit to the barber!!

While I have tried to emulate my grandpa’s immaculate dressing sense I have utterly failed in meeting his exacting standard. He cannot fathom how any grand daughter of his can go dressed in dungarees to a corporate meeting, and not even my by-now-standard line of  “Be true to thine ownself” helps!!!

So does this mean being a career journalist = sloppy, lazy & indisciplined or is it a mere excuse for having a straight-out-of-bed look & making it look smart 😉

Angst

A pow-wow over breakfast is healthy and stimulates you to be sharper on your feet, more than breakfast itself. Now I’m sure most people would disagree with this and argue the merits of having a healthy breakfast for healthy living. But that is not the topic of this post. And perhaps this post won’t really strike a chord with male readers, but here it is.

This particular morning our pow-wow digressed from corporate life and gossip to women and the lack of support there of in every aspect of living the day-to-day. Whether it was middle age angst or .. leave it for you to decide.

“All I want at times is for some one to get me a cup of coffee when I go home. I do not want someone telling me you – don’t need to work- I’m here for you- or take up all my burdens for me- just that thoughtful gesture will give me the strength to wake up to another day of struggle,” said this lady.

Feisty, driven, caring mother of a teen, considerate and duti-bound daughter of two aging parents (80+) this lady is the one we look to for support and direction when we get lost in the corporate quagmire of processes/politics/what-have-you. To have her voice such a thought seemed ludicrous. After all wasn’t she a super-woman?

Before anyone could react another lady chipped in, “I know what you mean. Every day I wake up to a day of chores and I have no complaints coz this is what I have been doing every since I can remember. But there are times when all I want is for someone to say thank you or just show they care or appreciate my efforts.”

And these thoughts found an echo in all of the women. Which brings me to this post?

None of the women are whiners. They shoulder more than their fare share of responsibilities. Each one is accomplished and successful, both on the professional and personal front. Their wants to be appreciated was not directed at the male sex but were generic.

Leading me to wonder :

  • Why women are not as quick to claim credit for anything they do
  • Why are uncomfortable at praise or complments showered on them
  • Why societal approval is still important
  • Why aren’t women as good at vocalising concerns compared with men
  • Why women are still hesitant in reaching out